Two-term BJP MP from Rajasthan Om Birla was Tuesday named the NDA nominee for the Speaker’s post in Lok Sabha. He was elected unopposed and took charge on Wednesday. Birla, 57, represents the Kota-Bundi constituency and was earlier elected to the Rajasthan assembly thrice before he contested the LS polls.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is learnt to have proposed Birla’s name for the post. His election to the high office is certain given the commanding position of the ruling NDA in the House and the absence of any other candidate. Birla has the backing of not only NDA partners, including the AIADMK, but the YSR Congress Party and the Biju Janata Dal as well.
President Ram Nath Kovind has scheduled the election for the post on Wednesday.
It has been a long wait for Birla, who cut his teeth as a politician in the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha, the BJP’s youth wing. He first had to wait for a chance to get a party ticket in an assembly election at a time when senior leaders like Lalit Kishore Chaturvedi and Raghuvir Singh Kaushal called the shots in the Harauti region of Rajasthan. And Birla was not among their favourites.
He got a break only in 2003 when their hold weakened and Vasundhara Raje, then the chief ministerial candidate, wanted leaders who were not under the wings of established party veterans. Incidentally, once the old-guard was marginalised and Raje gained full control of the state BJP, Birla, too, fell out of favour. Unable to make his way forward in Rajasthan, Birla had to wait again and sought solace elsewhere, devoting his time to the youth wing.
Incidentally, Birla won his first election at age 17, when he became the president of student’s union at the Government Senior Secondary School, Gumanpura, Kota, in 1979. Later, he became the district president of the BJYM for four years, then its state president from 1991-97, and eventually the youth wing’s national vice president for six years.
This stint in the mainstream national politics helped him meet party leaders across the country. So, when Raje swept back to power in 2013, he shifted to national politics, contesting the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
His rise and now nomination as Lok Sabha Speaker is a second setback for Raje after her detractor Gulab Chand Kataria was named Leader of Opposition in Rajasthan, overlooking her claim.
Birla is also credited with a key role in the development of the party system of booth-management. Articulate, he defies conventional assumptions about a run-of-the-mill politician and can serve as a consultant to many Lok Sabha MPs about winning elections.
He can also readily demonstrate the software he used for his booth-level management, which he continues to use to keep track of social activities (birthdays, marriage anniversaries, death anniversaries) that he needs to attend and to remain in constant touch with his electorate. He keeps updating it regularly.
However, Birla is not a manager-politician who wins elections with the help of technology and resources. Far from it, he remains a grassroots-level politician who has risen through the ranks.
In Kota, Birla is known as a relentless worker, never shying away from his social commitments. BJP’s Kota city district president Hemant Vijayvargiya said Birla loves interacting with his constituents and partaking in their social events.
According to his profile on the Lok Sabha website, he is a member of the RSS, was imprisoned during the Ram Temple movement, and in 2001, led a team of 100 volunteers, including doctors, following the earthquake in Gujarat.
Birla holds a graduate and post graduate degree in Commerce, completing them in 1985 and 1987, respectively, and has been associated with various Cooperative associations in the state and at the national level.
On Tuesday, BJD parliamentary party leader Pinaki Mishra announced his party’s support for Birla after a meeting of party MPs. He said this was in accordance with the BJD policy of constructive cooperation with the Centre.
He said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi and other BJP leaders had sought BJD president and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s cooperation.
Congress floor leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, asked about Birla’s candidature, told reporters: “No problem, we won’t oppose anyone’s name.”
There was no word from the ruling party on the post of the Deputy Speaker. Though the Shiv Sena had staked claim to the post, it could also go to a party like the YSR Congress or the BJD.